On Wednesday, President Donald Trump warned that “Joe Biden and his bosses from the radical left” aim to “totally destroy the beautiful suburbs.” This led many liberals to scratch their heads, thinking the president was insane. Right on cue, some claimed that Trump was racist. Yet the president is correct: Joe Biden poses a threat to the suburbs, and to the very concept of local autonomy over how communities are run.
When Trump made the comment at the White House on Wednesday, leftists lost it.
“Claiming anybody wants to abolish the suburbs is so insane that I think it makes Trump look even more pathetic,” Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, tweeted.
“I can’t believe the Trump campaign is so desperate they are trying to paint Joe Biden as a suburb abolishing anarchist,” anti-gun activist David Hogg tweeted.
Stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt suggested Trump’s claim about the suburbs proved that he was senile.
Others started suggesting that Trump’s warning was — get this — racist. “Trump, again speaking in barely veiled racial code, again ridiculously accuses Democrats of trying to ‘abolish our beautiful and successful suburbs.’ He says, ‘Your home will go down in value and crime rates will rapidly rise,'” CNN “fact-checker” Daniel Dale tweeted.
Dale added that Trump was “denouncing an Obama-era rule meant to combat racial segregation in housing.”
In 2015, former President Barack Obama’s administration issues the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which expanded on the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which outlawed restrictions on selling or renting homes to people based on race. Preventing racial discrimination is a noble goal, but the Obama-era rule would undermine federalism and communities’ control over their own land.
I’ve been studying Joe Biden’s housing plans, and what I’ve seen is both surprising and frightening. I expected that a President Biden would enforce the Obama administration’s radical AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) regulation to the hilt. That is exactly what Biden promises to do. By itself, that would be more than enough to end America’s suburbs as we’ve known them, as I’ve explained repeatedly here at NRO.
What surprises me is that Biden has actually promised to go much further than AFFH. Biden has embraced Cory Booker’s strategy for ending single-family zoning in the suburbs and creating what you might call “little downtowns” in the suburbs. Combine the Obama-Biden administration’s radical AFFH regulation with Booker’s new strategy, and I don’t see how the suburbs can retain their ability to govern themselves. It will mean the end of local control, the end of a style of living that many people prefer to the city, and therefore the end of meaningful choice in how Americans can live. Shouldn’t voters know that this is what’s at stake in the election?
According to Kurtz, AFFH integrates the suburbs with urban communities through a quota system to push urban residents into the suburbs; by regulating development, restricting automobile use, and limiting highway growth, effectively forcing suburbanites back to the city; and by redistributing tax revenue to poorer cities in the greater metropolitan area.
AFFH used HUD grants to incentivize the program, but local communities had the freedom to reject the grants and retain local control over zoning. Biden, however, aims to implement Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) plan to withhold federal transportation grants, which communities use to repair highways. This would give the regulation more teeth.
Local control is important in a federalist system like the United States. Trump’s decision to oppose AFFH does not mean he supports segregation or that his warnings about the AFFH threat to the suburbs are secretly racist.
Trump is not going insane, but sometimes it really seems Joe Biden is. Just how far left does this ostensible “moderate” want to go?
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.